Cooper Gulch Park may soon be joining the ranks of other world heritage sites like the Giza Pyramids, the Great Barrier Reef and the Grand Canyon. A recent envoy of representatives from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) happened upon this unlikely candidate while visiting the neighboring Myrtle Grove Cemetery. Dee Scolfe, said “We were intrigued by the well-worn path in the cemetery leading down to a little school house. When we saw a local man squeeze through the chain link fence, we decided to follow him.” What they found astounded them. Nestled among the tall trees surrounding the lush field they found artfully designed metal baskets perched high on poles draped with chains. They witnessed nurturing men with strollers carrying bags of small plastic plates and most curious of all, they found a large cavernous pool lacking water but, never-the-less, well attended by kids with rolling boards. The unusual cultural aspects of the park considered in combination with extraordinary ecological setting prompted the two representatives to nominate Cooper Gulch Park as a World Heritage Site. April Fools!
Last summer, Cooper Gulch Common Grounds interviewed every City Council member to learn more about how the City works and how citizens could be more involved. We learned that City develops a strategic vision every year where City staff and the Council spend two days identifying strategic priorities for the City. The 2019 workshop is scheduled for March 21st & 22nd from 8:30 to 5:00 in the Bode Classroom, 3030 L Street, Eureka.
The workshops in the past have had very little, to no direct public input. We see this meeting as a key opportunity to increase public involvement in determining our future. We will be attending portions of this two-day meeting to advance ideas we think are critical to improving public involvement and transparency in City governance, as well as, improving the long-term well being of Eureka’s citizens.
Ways you can be involved:
Attend all or portions of the Strategic Visioning Workshop.
Send an email or letter to the Mayor and City Council on what you think should be prioritized in the Strategic Vision for 2019.
Provide feedback on the priorities we will advocate for (either on Facebook page or by emailing us and our elected officials)
Following are the priorities we have agreed to advocate for in the Strategic Visioning process and little background on why we think this is important.
Increase broad community awareness and involvement throughout the development of policies and processes in the management of Eureka’s public lands and resources.
We have encountered many instances where City plans that would have dramatic effects on the character of neighboring lands and valued city resources have not been proactively shared with the public. Such instances include artificially turfing the fields at Cooper Gulch Park, the development of an RV park with a first option to buy on the City’s waterfront property, the relocation of the corporate yard to Kennedy and Hartman ball fields. We believe that such significant changes to the long-term character of our community and neighboring lands deserve more public dialogue. We therefore advocate for policies and processes that would support meaningful and broad public involvement throughout the development of such proposals.
Increase support, education and training for the City’s elected officials, staff and commission members on citizen involvement and participatory planning processes, the Brown Act, and decision-making processes.
In the process of organizing to improve conditions at Cooper Gulch Park, we have identified a number of barriers to public involvement and opportunities to improve the City’s compliance with the Brown Act, as well as improving the integrity and transparency of public processes in decision-making. We believe that by furthering the development and knowledge of our elected officials, staff and appointed commissioners on these democratic processes would be a strategic investment in aligning and strengthening the relationship between City leaders and the community.
Develop a long-term management and funding strategy for maintaining public facilities (e.g., public marina) that does not include the sale of Eureka’s public lands.
We are interested in advancing strategies for the long-term prosperity of Eureka and its citizens. Funding recurrent maintenance of city properties, such as the dredging of the public marina, is a short-term goal that should not be funded through the sale of our public lands, such as the waterfront lands east of the Somoa Bridge. Our public lands are assets that will enrich our City long into the future. Selling these lands diminishes long-term development opportunities to fund short-term maintenance needs. It is critical that the City develop a robust and long-term funding strategy to address facilities maintenance needs and does not compromise our long-term development opportunities.
Coordinate with other local governments and citizens to develop a Facilities and Recreation Master Plan for Eureka that is informed by public input, a regional needs and capacity assessment, and other planning documents.
We understand there is a need for all-weather sports complex to serve the diverse sports leagues of the Humboldt Bay region and that the benefits of such a development would also translate into economic development opportunities. We recognize the importance of such a development and advocate for the development of a Recreation Facilities and Program Master Plan that address this opportunity in context of other information and community input. Given the large investment that would be required to develop such a facility and the opportunity to provide broad-scale contributions to the Humboldt Bay region, it is important that such proposals are not crafted in a vacuum. It is important that site characteristics, the potential effects on existing use patterns and on neighboring lands be evaluated. It is also critical that such proposals be informed by a regional needs and assessment so as to tailor this development opportunity. Last but not least a Recreation Facilities and Program Master plan would consider the all weather sports in the context of the larger diversity of recreation needs and opportunities. These values would likely be diminished without considering the Recreation facilities and programs comprehensively.
Improve the health and safety of our City by prioritizing the staffing a Natural Resources Manager.
The quality of life, health, safety, and character of Eureka is heavily influenced by the quality of our natural resources. Trees in our greenways and along roads influence the character of neighborhoods, making them attractive and welcoming. The management of trees and greenways influence community health and safety, in terms of addressing wildfire risk and hazardous trees or limbs. Waterways and wetlands within the city influence the safety of low-lying neighborhoods in mitigating flood risk. The health of our waterways and Eureka’s shoreline also contributes to the quality of recreation and economic development opportunities for Eureka. Our community’s health, safety and development opportunities rely heavily on the quality of our natural resources. For this reason, the City’s organizational structure should elevate the conservation of natural resource values and public health and safety through staffing a Natural Resources Manager.
Eureka Director of Community Services, Miles Slattery, states ”It [Cooper Gulch Park] Definitely would not qualify and we would not be able to get the funding”. We determined otherwise.
We read the Request for Proposals for the Parks Revitalization grant and contacted the State Park Grant Manager, Lee Butterfield, to verify our findings that Cooper Gulch Park is not only eligible but would be a competitive candidate for the Parks Revitalization Grant. He confirmed our findings and corrected us on one misunderstanding. The Parks Revitalization grant allows for up to $8.5 million per application not per applicant.
The Parks Revitalization grant is better suited to address the spectrum of our community needs than the Cultural, Community and Natural Resources (CCNR) Grant the City of Eureka is currently pursuing. The proposal for the CCNR grant would fund an artificial turf field and a couple ADA accessible features, such as a bathroom. These investments would do little to address the low rate of participation in the park by women, the elderly and children not involved in league sports. On the other hand, the Park Revitalization grant provides an opportunity to address the needs of the diversity of Eureka’s citizens. It would support an assortment of investments that would not only benefit sports leagues with field improvements and cover ADA accessible features, but would also support the improvement and development of trails, interpretation and art installations, a covered pavilion, an amphitheater, a food truck court, picnic tables and barbecues, benches, bat boxes, botanical gardens, outdoor exercise equipment, bocce courts, and a playground. This opportunity should not be disregarded by our city staff but pursued wholeheartedly with the direction and support of our elected leaders, City Council.
Director Slattery states that because Cooper Gulch Park exceeds 3 acres per 1000 resident ratio it is ineligible, would not be competitive, and therefore will not be pursued. Cooper Gulch Park has between 8-9 acres per 1000 residents (Figure A). According to the grant guidelines, an application is ineligible where within a half-mile radius of a project site, there is a ratio of more than 3 acres of park space per 1,000 residents AND the community has a median household income above $51,026 (p.15). The median household income within half a mile of Cooper Gulch Park is roughly $34,000 (Figure A), which means that the park is not inelligible due to the ratio of acres per 1000 residents. In fact, we were told by the grant manager that the low median household income, which is significantly lower than the State’s ($67,169 in 2017, ACS Census Bureau), would make the project more competitive. The grant also heavily weights proposals that offer benefits that respond to the Community Challenges (Figure B). We documented community challenges through the CGCG community survey and developed the CGCG Community Vision to respond to the challenges and opportunities our community identified. The Community Vision could be used as a basis in the coming months to further refine a proposal through Community Based Planning (Criteria 4, Figure B), which would result in a highly competitive application.
The Facts: It is not true that Cooper Gulch Park would not qualify for the Parks Revitalization grant. There are nine factors that grant applications will be considered. We could be highly competitive on many of these factors, for example, our low median household income, our documented community challenges and project benefits, and community based planning. The opportunity to secure $8.5 million to fund an assortment of recreation facilities that would benefit the community throughout the days, weeks and years to come should not be dismissed by city staff but pursued wholeheartedly with the direction and support of our elected leaders, City Council.
Find out for yourself about the grant criteria at the Proposition 68 Statewide Park Development and Community Revitalization Grant Technical Assistance Workshop 9am to 3pm on February 21st at the Warfinger Building, 1 Marina Way, Eureka.
We at Cooper Gulch Common Grounds (CGCG) recently learned that the City of Eureka will submit a grant proposal in two weeks to artificially turf the natural fields at Cooper Gulch Park, Eureka’s second largest park. We believe that residents and business owners of Eureka should be given the opportunity to provide input on this proposal given the significant negative long-term impacts that may result. Please come to the Eureka City Council meeting on Tuesday, February 5, 6pm at 531 K Street, Eureka to share your concerns with our elected representatives. This may be the only opportunity for you, and the other 14,000 residents living within a mile of the park to provide input on a proposal that would dramatically change the natural character of the park. The proposal also increases safety issues and commits the city to significantly higher long-term maintenance costs.
As citizens of Eureka, we have volunteered our time to solicit input on who uses or does not use the park, what attracts or repels different segments of the community from visiting the park, and what investments in facilities and programming would make this park more meaningful to underrepresented segments of the community (www.coopergulch.org/survey-results). We assembled the robust input we received into the Community Vision (coopergulch.org/vision). The input received through our process identified fields that would support multiple uses and a diversity of programming. Artificially turfing fields and prioritizing regional competitions was not identified through community input and the public has not had an opportunity to voice their concerns about possible impacts.
Our survey identified safety as the leading reason why park participation rates are much lower for women and the elderly than men, at a participation rate of 1 to 3. One of the top methods community members identified to improve safety was to increase the presence of people in the park. While the City’s proposal would increase out-of-town visitors a few weekends a year, the focus of the park would be visitor-oriented rather than resident-oriented. This proposal would do little to increase the use of the park by a diversity of residents throughout the week and year. Also of concern are the potential health and safety impacts to youth and adult sports players that artificial turf has been known to create. It is likely that changing the character and surfacing of the park’s main play areas would further diminish existing uses such as dog walking, as well as introduces new health and safety hazards.
An alternative to artificial turf is a sand-based natural turf grass field, which would improve drainage (a major seasonal issue in the park) while maintaining the natural character of the park. Artificial turf fields, including the FieldTurf brand that we understand the city is considering, generally have an 8-year warranty and can be expected to last 8 to 13 years (https://fieldturf.com/en/why-fieldturf/faq/). A report by Oregon State University that outlines a range of natural turf development opportunities for the Pacific Northwest says "Sand-based, natural turf grass fields, when compared to synthetic surfaces, are initially less expensive, more enjoyable to play on, cooler in warm weather, less hazardous when wet, more resilient, and are 30 to 50 times less expensive to replace." (https://catalog.extension.oregonstate.edu/pnw675/viewfile).
We have seen how Ross Park’s limited rubber footprint has fallen into disrepair and have noted the limited funds available for supporting the maintenance of parks, which is only $5,000 this year for all playgrounds in the City of Eureka. The long-term commitment to maintenance is not realistic and could have serious consequences for the health of Cooper creek, Humboldt Bay, and users of the field, should the field not be properly maintained.
We recommend that the City apply for the Proposition 68 Parks Revitalization grant request for proposals due on July 15th which allows cities to be awarded multiple proposals for up to $8.5 million. This would provide time for public input, as well as a chance to take advantage of a great opportunity to invest in facilities that would benefit our entire community, resulting in new skills, play structures, and interactions. These investments would make our parks safer and increase the diversity of people in our community using the park and therefore deserves consideration as the City moves to apply for one of the largest funding opportunities for parks since 2006!
Cooper Gulch Common Grounds
Come out to Arts Alive on June 3rd to preview the Community Master Vision for Cooper Gulch Park. The plan reflects the input from multiple community meetings, our community survey with over 500 responses, and the ideas sourced at Play and Plan Day last October. You will have an opportunity to provide feedback on the plan and design ideas to develop signature gateways to the park. Learn more and stay involved by listening to the Happy Trails interview with Christy Prescott, Michael Kaufman, and Cliff Berkowitz on KHUM, Radio Without The Rules. The location is to be announced, stay in the loop by signing up for the CGCG email newsletter, or following Cooper Gulch Common Grounds on Facebook, Twitter, and Instragram.
We had a great opportunity this week to sit down in the KHSU studio and talk with Katie Whiteside, Host of the Homepage, and share what Cooper Gulch Common Grounds is about, what we've been doing to engage the community, and what we are looking forward in the next couple weeks, Play & Plan Day.
CGCG Community Gathering & Celebration
Join us as we celebrate our accomplishments thus far in developing a process for the community to come together in defining the future of Cooper Gulch Park. Whether you have been involved in Cooper Gulch Common Grounds before now or not, this will be a great opportunity to get an overview of what we're about, and how we plan to go about it. At this gathering we will identify and solicit input on ways to get involved and create a shared understanding about the different ways you can contribute your ideas for the Cooper Gulch Park master plan.
Cooper Gulch Community Center,
1720 10th Street, Eureka
Tuesday, July 19
5:30 to 7:30
Recently, a pair of Wood Ducks took up residence in Cooper Creek.
They are very shy!